The Prince of Wales, the German Bishops, and Cardinal Newman

The Daily Telegraph in London is held up as a conservative newspaper. It is far more conservative than any Australian daily. And yet in a piece dated 3rd October 2012 (£1m from those who die without wills passes to Prince Charles's estate) we find this:
More than £1 million has passed to the Prince of Wales’s Duchy of Cornwall estate in the last six years from people who died without making a will or having an heir, latest accounts show. Under powers dating back to medieval times, the Duchy is entitled to all unclaimed property and estates left when someone dies in Cornwall, in an arrangement known as bona vacantia. In the last financial year alone, £552,000 passed to the Duchy under the ancient law, which was put in place when the Duchy was created by Edward III in 1337 for his son and heir, Edward, the Black Prince.
Note the oogedy boogedy of "dating back to medieval times" and all that crap about the Black Prince. This is not some part-time hack. The author is Gordon Rayner "Chief Reporter". Note the sense that this is all something rather strange and peculiar. It may not help matters to observe that bona vacantia is in fact a concept far older than the Middle Ages, something that can be confirmed by the obscure modern practice of looking things up on Google.
In most of Britain, the estates of people who die without making a will, and who have no obvious heirs, go to the Government.
Well that is not quite the legal way of expressing it. But to say that the property of those who die intestate goes to the Crown would undermine Rayner's snark – and what on earth does he think should happen to such property? To give this process in the rest of the UK its proper legal name, bona vacantia, would blow the gaff completely.

The Telegraph, remember, is a conservative newspaper.

Speaking of ignorance of history, the German bishops came in for some flack recently for their own means of raising revenue. I always assumed it was due to some sort of tidy minded Teutonicism that in Germany the state levies a special church tax which is then passed on to your religion. You can reduce your taxes by declaring that you are not the member of any church. Naturally the Catholic Church regards making such a declaration as a formal defection and so anyone who does this is forbidden the sacraments. And, as night follows day, people are complaining.

The thought that perhaps the Church should look to raise money some other way has occurred to at least one prominent expatriate German Catholic.
Once liberated from material and political burdens and privileges, the Church can reach out more effectively and in a truly Christian way to the whole world, she can be truly open to the world. She can live more freely her vocation to the ministry of divine worship and service of neighbour.
The Supreme Pontiff, Servant of the Servants of God, may in fact be on to something. That assumes he was talking about the church tax. The German Bishops don't seem to think so.
"Clearly, someone withdrawing from the Church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member," [Archbishop Zollitsch] said at a September 24 press conference as the bishops began a four-day meeting in Fulda. "We are grateful Rome has given completely clear approval to our stance."
But I was struck by the Bishops' defence of the practice. It is nothing to do with efficiency.
In its decree, the bishops' conference said the tax was designed to compensate for state seizures of Church property.
This reminded me of a satirical passage in Newman's Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England (1851), Lecture 6 'Prejudice the Life of the Protestant View' § 4. Newman is talking of a typical English Protestant abroad in Catholic Europe who
 …gets up at an English hour, has his breakfast at his leisure, and then saunters into some of the churches of the place; he is scandalized to have proof of what he has so often heard, the infrequency of communions among Catholics. Again and again, in the course of his tour, has he entered them, and never by any chance did he see a solitary communicant:—hundreds, perhaps, having communicated in those very churches, according to their custom, before he was out of his bedroom. But what scandalizes him most, is that even bishops and priests, nay, the Pope himself does not communicate at the great festivals of the Church. He was at a great ceremonial, a High Mass, on Lady Day, at the Minerva; not one Cardinal communicated; Pope and Cardinals, and every Priest present but the celebrant, having communicated, of course, each in his own Mass, and in his own chapel or church early in the morning. Then the churches are so dirty; faded splendour, tawdriness, squalidness are the fashion of the day;—thanks to the Protestants and Infidels, who, in almost every country where Catholicism is found, have stolen the revenues by which they were kept decent.
Stolen the revenues by which they were kept decent. A pity they can't just give the properties back.